(LEX 18) — The man at the center of one of former Gov. Matt Bevin's controversial pardons spoke at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
In 2014, Donald Mills was killed during a break-in at his home in Knox County. Patrick Baker was one of the four people charged in connection with the crime. Baker was convicted of reckless homicide and impersonating a peace officer. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison, but in his final acts as governor, Bevin pardoned or commuted the sentences of hundreds of inmates, including Baker.
"I was pissed off. I'm not going to lie to you. I was pissed off," Mills' sister, Melinda Mills, told LEX 18.
Bevin said he pardoned Baker because the evidence against him was, "sketchy at best."
"We all know what evidence was presented," Melinda Mills said. "It was not 'sketchy at best.'"
Another aspect of the pardon that brought it into the spotlight, was the fact that the Courier-Journal reported Patrick Baker's brother hosted a fundraiser for Bevin in the summer of 2018. More than $20,000 was raised and the paper reported the money from that fundraiser went to pay down the debt from Bevin's first gubernatorial campaign. Following the Courier Journal's report, Republican and Democratic Kentucky lawmakers have called for investigations into Bevin's pardon of Baker.
Baker stood in front of the reporters as a free man Tuesday, less than a week since he was released from prison. He said he was shocked to hear he had been pardoned by Bevin, but he is grateful.
"I am innocent. but I just want to thank Mr. Bevin for his courageous actions and allowing me to come home to my family," said Baker.
Baker was joined by two attorneys. In the news conference, attorney Elliot Slosar said Baker was the subject of an improper investigation by the Kentucky State Police.
"DNA evidence excluded Patrick Baker from killing Donald Mills," said Slosar. "There were handcuffs left at the scene of the crime, where the Kentucky State Police laboratory tested those cuffs and they excluded Patrick Baker. Those cuffs were left by the shooter."
The attorney said he would like to see an investigation into the KSP officers who investigated Baker's case.
Slosar also said that Baker was questioned extensively by a member of government before the pardon was approved.
Baker said that his family did not purchase a pardon, and his attorney said the family did nothing wrong in supporting a political candidate.
Jackie Steele, the Commonwealth's Attorney of the 27th Judicial Circuit released a statement, which read in part, "Outgoing Governor, Matt Bevin, granted a full pardon to Patrick Baker on December 11, 2019. In doing so, then Governor Bevin substituted his judgment for the judgment of the Knox County Jury that convicted Patrick Baker of killing Donald Mills. This has done a disservice to the victim, the victim's family and the citizens of Knox County. Simply state, it is wrong to favor the guilty and keep the innocent from getting jealous."
You can read Steel's full statement here.